Dow Tops 14,000 on Strong Employment Gains in November and December

Andrew Klips |

Wall StreetIt’s an historic day on Wall Street as the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 14,000 for the first time since October 2007 and the S&P 500 hit its highest level since December 2007.  The latest jobs figure for January was actually less than economists had predicted, but upward revisions to November and December figures put the U.S. labor market in a better position than originally thought.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said from Washington Friday that the nation only created 157,000 nonfarm jobs in January and that the unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent in December.  Economists were expecting about 170,000 new jobs for the month and for the unemployment rate to slide down to 7.7 percent.

Retailers paced jobs additions during January with 33,000, outpacing its average 20,000 per month rate during 2012.  Construction wasn’t far behind with 28,000 new jobs in January, followed by health care boosting staff by 23,000.

Employment was 14,000 lower in the transportation and warehousing index, while the government cut 9,000 jobs during January.

In its scheduled monthly revisions, the Labor Department raised the total number of jobs for all of 2012 by 335,000 to 2.17 million, meaning that employment growth averaged 181,000 per month.  The December figure was also sharply revised upward from its original estimate of 155,000 to 196,000.  November’s new jobs underwent a final revision with the biggest increase in nearly a year from an original 161,000 to 247,000.

Investors cheered the revisions showing 127,000 more jobs than originally thought to close out 2012.  December’s estimate is still open to one more revision next month as more complete data is compiled.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was flat at 34.4 hours.  The average manufacturing workweek demurred by 0.1 hour to 40.6 hours.

Average hourly earnings for private nonfarm employees increased 4 percent to $23.78.  Average earnings increased by 2.1 percent compared to the year prior month.

Wall Street was looking for a catalyst to drive to new highs and economic data provided it, albeit a somber report for January.  The latest information from the Institute for Supply Management showed that manufacturing activity at U.S. factories hit its highest level since last April.  The ISM manufacturing index registered 53.1 percent, beating economist predictions of a 51.0 percent mark.  Also providing fodder for the bulls was the latest University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index rising in January to 73.8 from 72.9 in December.  This too beat economist guesstimates that the index would slide to 71.5 for the month.

Heading towards the lunch break, the Dow is up by 142 points at 14,002, the S&P 500 ahead by 13 points at 1,510 and the Nasdaq has grown taller by 25 points to 3,167.

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